On the 21st of December 2007 Poland entered into the Schengen agreement and soon afterwards the Usedom beach on the German-Polish border between the German and Polish towns of Ahlbeck and Świnoujście (Swinemünde), became the scene of … the ‘Nudist war‘. At least the German tabloid Bild depicted the local conflict as ‘Nudist war on the German-Polish border‘. If you are interested in news about naturism or paying attention to anything weird you presumably didn’t miss this story. I think, any book or series of posts about German naturism would not be complete without it :-). So I’ll state it here in brief.
The Baltic Sea island of Usedom is divided by the border between Germany and Poland into the German and Polish parts. Usedom has six nudist beaches along its 40-kilometer stretch of coastline – one of which is just a few meters from the border. The beaches have been nudist beaches for almost fifty years, at least on the German side (The German part of the island belonged to East Germany between 1949 and 1990).
The oldest publications that I’ve found are dated August 2008, the newest are from April and May, 2009. At the end of 2007 and at the beginning of 2008 everything looked perfect. The online magazine Cafebabel.com cited Janusz Zmurkiewicz, president of Świnoujście, who said in December 2007: ‘Finally we will be able to cross over without showing our passports wearing only our swimming costumes in summer’. But, as Monika Stefanek, the author of the article in Cafebabel.com, noted, there was one thing he couldn’t have foreseen: not everyone on the German side of the beach covers themselves up. The problem came to light with the first summer temperatures.
When the border signs on Usedom island were removed, Polish holidaymakers moved their feet to yet unknown beach across the border and many of them were outraged by the nudists. “I do not want my four year old daughter to know the anatomy” said a 47-year-old Polish woman. Kazimierz Sajadeusz, the 68-year-old priest in Świnoujście, stressed: “From a Catholic point of view the nudists are sinners.” Edward Zajac, a councillor for Świnoujście, a self-proclaimed ‘moral guardian’, wanted to relocate the nudist beach far from the Polish border. If this is not possible, the nudist area should be shielded from view.
The Germans replied that what people forget today is that Goethe bathed naked, Bismarck bathed naked, and the royal spa-doctor Richard Kind from Swinemünde on Usedom warned in 1828 against bathing in swimsuits, because they neutralize the beneficial effect of the pounding of the waves. … The bathing war is as old as bathing itself.
France24 concludes: ‘Passport controls between Poland and Germany may have vanished. But the border dividing sunbathers in swimming suits and those wearing nothing at all is as rigid as ever.’
A few months ago a nudist compromise between Germany and Poland or a ceasefire was set to end the nudist war on Usedom beach. A peace plan provides that signs written in both German and Polish should mark off the naked-friendly territory from the clothes-only section. Additional signs will be prominently placed to remind German sunbathers that the Poles want to keep their beach free of bare bum sightings (quoted from Bild.com).
The locals of the island don’t like the interest that they have provoked by this conflict. They believe that the international press seems to be much more interested in this affair than the local one. And that there are a lot of real important things which are worth to be published. The mentioned international mass media consider it as a conflict of values between open-minded Germans and strict Catholics in Poland. But I would not oversimplify the issue.